Group 1 (Gymnosperm) Notes

Gymnosperm = naked seed

I.  Gymnosperms are seed-bearing plants where ovules are:

            1.  Born on the margins of modified leaves

2.  Occur at the tips of specialized short branches

3.  Located in various types of strobili (cones)

II.  Ovules are not:

1.  Sealed in carpels--they are exposed to the air at the time of pollination

2.  Not using pollen receptive structures--ovules receive pollen directly


III.  Terms

            Fascicle: point of connection of a cluster

            2-ranked: in two vertical rows on an axis

            Umbo: protuberance on the scale of a cone
            Scales: part of the cone on a conifer that bears ovules


IV.  Conifer Identification

Things to look for:

Needles--         clustered (how many needles/cluster)
Branches--       drooping or horizontal
                                    white sap/powder present
                                    white stripe along needle

Location--        upland
                                    wet sites

Cone--             location on branch (upright or hanging)
                                    shape (rounded/pointed near apice)
                                    umbo presence/shape

Bark--              color and texture


Conifer Families


Habit: Leaves alternate or usually on short shoots (spur shoots), leaves simple, flabellate (fan shaped), palmate dichotomous venation, petioles present.  Dioecious. 

Ecology: Native to China.  Cultivated, but not naturalized world-wide.

Use: Memory enhancer.  Seeds roasted and eaten as a delicacy in China.


Habit: Shrubs or trees.  Needles alternate, simple, linear.  Usually dioecious (rarely monecious). Fruit is made up of  a green ovule surrounded (not enclosed) by a red aril.

Ecology: Cultivars of Taxus used as an ornamental shrub in yards.

Use: Taxol extracted from Taxus in the 1970s and used in leukemia treatments.


Habit: Shrubs or trees, leaves are scale-like, opposite or whorled.  Plants monecious or dioecious.  Cones mostly woody at maturity.  Seeds small, wingless.

Ecology:  Widely grown as ornamentals.  This is the family important to many people because of the sequoias. 

Use:  Lots of tannins in the wood...cedar chests, etc.